A cabinet minister faces a police probe over an election leaflet attacking Labour regarding plans to put a traveller site in his constituency.
Complaints were made to both Gwent Police and the Equality and Human Rights Commission after David TC Davies, the Welsh secretary, distributed a campaign leaflet about proposed housing sites for travellers.
The Conservative MP for Monmouth has been accused of using racist language in the leaflet, which was titled: ‘Gypsy and traveller site coming to your area soon!’ In the document, he alleged that the Labour-controlled council is looking to build several traveller sites without enough public consultation.
He also wrote that the council is planning a short consultation ‘during the summer holiday period when many residents will be unable to participate’.
Locals were asked a number of questions including ‘Would you like to see a traveller site next to your house?’ According to The Times, police have confirmed they are looking into the leaflet.
Detective Inspector Steve Thomas said: ‘Officers are reviewing the content of the leaflet and its impact on the gipsy and traveller and settled communities in Monmouthshire.
‘We take any allegation of discrimination extremely seriously and we’re committed to ensuring our communities are safe places and welcoming for all.’ The charity Travelling Ahead, which works with gypsies and travellers, said the MP was carrying out ‘dog-whistle actions intended to create a hostile environment’.
Trudy Aspinwall, of Travelling Ahead, said: ‘We do not have an issue with a public consultation. However, this was a disproportionate and hostile response which is targeted at the race and ethnicity and the implied prejudice of gypsies and travellers.’ Mr Davies said the ‘location of authorised and unauthorised traveller sites is a legitimate matter’ for public debate.
He said: ‘It is entirely valid to criticise a lack of wide public consultation by a council. I have been contacted by many upset residents at the shortness of the consultation and the proposed locations for the sites. I have also been told that many from the gypsy and traveller community are also upset at the proposed locations for the sites.’
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said: ‘The EHRC receives complaints each week about allegations of unlawful activity contrary to the Equality Act 2010. We consider each complaint carefully and take action where appropriate.’